Michigan– the outdoorsmen’s paradise. Whether spring or summer, fall or winter…Michigan is the place to be. Hiking, camping, canoeing, biking, kayaking, snowmobiling, ice fishing, boating…you name it and it can be done in Michigan.
On this particular trip I was vacationing with my family on Lake Michigan in South Haven. My brother-in-law Jon and I were feeling ambitious, as we had taken our mountain bikes with us and were planning to do some biking in the area. Through some research of the area we discovered an interesting multi-use trail stretching 33.5 miles from South Haven to Kalamazoo. I say interesting because this trail was previously a railroad operational in the mid-to-late 1800’s. As it was no longer used as a rail line it was converted into a crushed limestone/slag trail that passes through small towns, over bridges, and passed historical points of interest.
While I was determined that we ought to tackle the 67-mile round trip, reason was victorious and we would instead opt to take the trail from Kalamazoo to South Haven. Our plan was to be shuttled by my wife and father-in-law to the trailhead in Kalamazoo so we could get an early start and avoid the midday heat of July. We hoped to be back in South Haven before noon.
The good news was that it was going to be an overcast day with a very slight chance of rain. As far as we could tell, the day was starting off just right. The trailhead captured the history of this line with a restored train at the origination point. I thought this was a really cool idea and a nice tribute to the past while moving forward into the future. As we moved over the wooden pathway and onto the paved trail, I couldn’t help but hope that the entire trail had recently been paved, instead of the crushed limestone/slag. In only a few minutes I would have my answer. For the next 33.4 miles we would be laboring over a compact bed of crushed rock. Don’t get me wrong…I wasn’t upset by the crushed rock trail. I just knew that we would be pedaling non-stop, as the rock would not allow any coasting.
The beauty of this multi-use trail during the summer is the way it captures the full measure of life in nature and allows you to be a part of it. The summer green simply envelops you. This is where Michigan really shines in the summer- flowers adorning in their full glory, berries bursting forth in all their richness, and trees reaching out to embrace and carry you along. This is a place where a person can breathe deep and find life again. The smell of deep woods and fresh summer reinvigorates the soul. Not to mention that you can eat blackberries the size of your thumb to your hearts desire. And we did!
The Kal-Haven Trail led us passed little towns like Bloomingdale, Berlamont, Grand Junction, and Lacota. Each town had it’s own story and character. We stopped in a couple of the towns for a water break. But if the truth be told- we stopped to take in the simplicity of small town America, and there was just something refreshing about that.
The Kal-Haven trail is a special trail. It isn’t a trail that winds or changes elevation. It isn’t the easiest trail on which to pedal. But it is a trail long enough to seclude you from the busyness of life, while helping you to find your heart and soul. Don’t take this trail and treat it like something that needs to be accomplished. Don’t approach this trail like you are going to do something to it. Rather, join it, become part of it, and let it do something to you.
to be alone with you by sufjan stevens